Leading student campaigners reject Burnham and Cooper’s ‘graduate tax’

Labour Leadership Candidates and now they are 4_edited-1Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper’s attempts to impress upon students and win them away from the surging Jeremy Corbyn have been dismissed immediately by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC).

The NCAFC, which was founded in 2010 and has been the organiser of every major demonstration for the abolition of tuition fees since then, has issued a statement:

Dressing up moderate policies with a left-wing headline in a bid to steal votes from Corbyn, whose ideas are dominating the leadership election, is nothing new for Burnham. Only a few days ago he announced that he is in favour of re-nationalising the railways, but take a closer look and you will see that he just wants to lift the ban on public providers bidding to compete with private companies running the rails.

A graduate tax isn’t good enough; it’s essentially a rebranding of tuition fees. Burnham claims he wants to “lift the millstone of debt” from students, but is actually proposing a very similar form of funding, namely through decades of deductions from graduate wages. While a graduate tax pushes the headline of a fee into the background, it still depends on the idea that individuals who receive the financial benefit of a degree should pay for the privilege. So what seems like a step forward—taxation rather than loans and debts—actually relies on the same logic: of education as an individual investment in a competitive market. Unless it is a tax to fund HE on wealth itself (as Corbyn is proposing a form of), this represents little progress.

This will come as a blow to Burnham and Cooper, who are believed to be well behind Jeremy Corbyn on first preferences and need to persuade voters who are already preferencing Jeremy higher than them to switch in order to have any chance of winning.

The NCAFC has previously endorsed Jeremy Corbyn, along with the Labour Campaign for Free Education and Oxford University Labour Club, the latter of which is Britain’s largest Labour club and has policy in favour of free education.

Corbyn’s will unveil his Youth Manifesto at an event today with NUS Vice-President Shelly Asquith, activist James Elliott and author Owen Jones.